The country dance form can be thought of as an exquisite vessel, in itself beautiful in shape, yet highly abstract.
We can choose to fill this vessel with whatever meaning we like.
If we like,
we can pursue a particular friendship;
we can rejoice in a sense of community;
we can see in the music and the dance the highest of spiritual values;
we can see it as good fun.
The dance is all of these and greater than all of them.
This lovely quote is from my first dance mentor, Carl Wittman (1943-1986). It has been an inspiration for many years.
I discovered English country, contra and square dance in the early 80s. I love the joy of movement to amazing music, the patterns, the physical exercise, the mental challenges, recovering from mistakes in a safe environment, problem-solving on the fly, and being in the moment, but most of all I love the community and social aspects of this dance form. It has provided a place for me to flourish and to give back. It is home for me.
Thrown into teaching in my local English and Scottish group early on, with no skills or knowledge, CDSS was the biggest factor in nurturing my career as a caller—workshops and mini-courses at CDSS camps, scholarships, resources, materials from the store, and a grant to create a callers course with Bruce Hamilton on the west coast. Since those early days, with CDSS’s help, I have developed my skills as an English dance caller and now tour and dance throughout North America and England.
CDSS camp programs also introduced me to longsword, rapper, and morris dance. I was on a morris team for a number of years, still enjoy rapper at camp, and have finally fulfilled another dream of mine which is to start a longsword team (with wooden swords from CDSS!).
Several years ago I went to CDSS Harmony of Song and Dance for the first time. I’ve always loved to sing and felt it was a missing part of my life—I had been talking for years about wanting more. After Harmony, I was so inspired I started a small social sing and joined a world music choir.
So yes, through CDSS I have found much joy in the song and the dance for more than 35 years. But it is so much more than my personal experiences. I have taught a college class in country dance – and mentored several young adults who now teach in our local group. I teach English country dance to older adults and see how much benefit they get from this participatory dance form. The work of CDSS is so important to me that I have served on the Board twice.
Clearly I want to give back and share this joy and social good with people while I am living.
And so, when I was redoing my will several years ago, it seemed logical that I would want to also leave a legacy after I am gone.
My second year at Harmony camp, for the camp auction, Cindy Kallet and Rani Arbo created a round for me. I shared Carl’s quote with them and talked about how much this dance community has meant in my life. Now I have another legacy — a song I can share!
Take hands around the circle, underneath the pines
We are an exquisite vessel, pour in your hearts and drink, all of us
Peace, pleasure, joy in equal measure
Raucous good fun, we’re dancing as one, towards home.